Tuesday, January 30, 2018

1/30/18 - Janeane spoke with award-winning science journalist, Alanna Mitchell, about her latest book, The Spinning Magnet. Mitchell explores electromagnetism: the force that created the modern world…and could destroy it.

LISTEN to today's featured guest, Alanna Mitchell!

What would life look like if the electromagnetic technology of the entire earth was suddenly wiped out? No cell phones, no internet, and maybe not even basic electricity? This isn’t science fiction. Electromagnetism, one of the four fundamental physical forces in the universe, is in many ways the bedrock of modern civilization. But the Earth’s magnetic poles are primed for a switch. The magnetic North Pole will trade places with the magnetic South Pole—a phenomenon that has happened before, and is overdue to happen again. It could be the undoing of everything that has come to define 21st century life, not to mention the biology of the natural world. 

In THE SPINNING MAGNET: The Electromagnetic Force that Created the Modern World—and Could Destroy It, science journalist Alanna Mitchell shares an immersive global investigation of electromagnetism and what it means for our planet.

Alanna Mitchell discusses:

· How the Earth’s magnetic field came to be so important for navigation, from animal migration to human exploration of the oceans and continents…and the tricks it can play on us.

· Culture clashes: historically, accepting the concept of magnetism was fraught with contention. From Ancient Greece to modern-day Canada, Mitchell traces the challenge this concept posed to traditional beliefs.

· The practical, environmental, and human costs of a pole switch: The fallout of a pole switch will be cataclysmic. Mitchell breaks down the impact a pole switch will have on everything from the insurance industry to human healthcare to the habitable regions of our planet.

The last time the poles switched, 780,000 years ago, our species did not exist. When it happens again, the myriad species that call Earth home will have to adapt to a new reality: deadly solar and cosmic rays, the breakdown of our planet’s protective magnetic field, a loss of the internal “compass” that guides animals in their migratory patterns, and the destruction of electromagnetic technology that we rely on daily. THE SPINNING MAGNET is a compelling examination of the value of earth’s magnetic field—a force that also poses one of the least-discussed – yet most unavoidable – threats currently facing modern civilization.


Alanna Mitchell is an acclaimed science journalist and the author of Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, which won the Grantham Prize for Excellence in Environmental Journalism. In 2014, she won a National Magazine Award for a feature on the biology of extinction. In 2015 she won a New York Festival’s International Radio Silver Medal for her science documentary on neonicotinoid pesticides as well as the Lane Anderson Award for best Canadian science book written for adults. She has written for The New York Times Science section and is a contributor to CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks. The Spinning Magnet is her fifth book of non-fiction. She is renowned for her ability to turn science into narrative.

Coming up 5/22 at 9:30am - Haleigh Marcello, Founder and Executive Director, Orange County Queer History Project, PhD Candidate - Graduate Feminist Emphasis, Department of Gender & Sexuality Studies

UCI PhD candidate, Haleigh Marcello, joins Janeane to talk about some OC Queer History events coming up! LISTEN to today's show featurin...